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How to access a live version of FreeBSD before committing to an installation.
Before reading this chapter, you should:
Read the supported hardware list that shipped with the version of FreeBSD to be installed and verify that the system's hardware is supported.
Minimum Hardware Requirements
The hardware requirements to install FreeBSD vary by architecture. Hardware architectures and devices supported by a FreeBSD release are listed on the <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/releases/index.html">FreeBSD Release Information</link> page. The <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/where.html">FreeBSD download page</link> also has recommendations for choosing the correct image for different architectures.
A FreeBSD installation requires a minimum of 96 MB of <acronym>RAM</acronym> and 1.5 GB of free hard drive space. However, such small amounts of memory and disk space are really only suitable for custom applications like embedded appliances. General-purpose desktop systems need more resources. 2-4 GB RAM and at least 8 GB hard drive space is a good starting point.
These are the processor requirements for each architecture:
amd64
This is the most common desktop and laptop processor type, used in most modern systems. <trademark class="registered">Intel</trademark> calls it <acronym>Intel64</acronym>. Other manufacturers sometimes call it <acronym>x86-64</acronym>.
Examples of amd64 compatible processors include: <trademark>AMD Athlon</trademark>64, <trademark>AMD Opteron</trademark>, multi-core <trademark class="registered">Intel</trademark> <trademark>Xeon</trademark>, and <trademark class="registered">Intel</trademark> <trademark>Core</trademark> 2 and later processors.
i386
Older desktops and laptops often use this 32-bit, x86 architecture.
Almost all i386-compatible processors with a floating point unit are supported. All <trademark class="registered">Intel</trademark> processors 486 or higher are supported.
FreeBSD will take advantage of Physical Address Extensions (<acronym>PAE</acronym>) support on <acronym>CPU</acronym>s with this feature. A kernel with the <acronym>PAE</acronym> feature enabled will detect memory above 4 GB and allow it to be used by the system. However, using <acronym>PAE</acronym> places constraints on device drivers and other features of FreeBSD.
powerpc
All New World <acronym>ROM</acronym> <trademark class="registered">Apple</trademark> <trademark class="registered">Mac</trademark> systems with built-in <acronym>USB</acronym> are supported. <acronym>SMP</acronym> is supported on machines with multiple <acronym>CPU</acronym>s.
A 32-bit kernel can only use the first 2 GB of <acronym>RAM</acronym>.
sparc64
Systems supported by FreeBSD/sparc64 are listed at the <link xlink:href="@@URL_RELPREFIX@@/platforms/sparc.html">FreeBSD/sparc64 Project</link>.
<acronym>SMP</acronym> is supported on all systems with more than 1 processor. A dedicated disk is required as it is not possible to share a disk with another operating system at this time.
Pre-Installation Tasks
Once it has been determined that the system meets the minimum hardware requirements for installing FreeBSD, the installation file should be downloaded and the installation media prepared. Before doing this, check that the system is ready for an installation by verifying the items in this checklist:
Back Up Important Data
Before installing any operating system, <emphasis>always</emphasis> backup all important data first. Do not store the backup on the system being installed. Instead, save the data to a removable disk such as a <acronym>USB</acronym> drive, another system on the network, or an online backup service. Test the backup before starting the installation to make sure it contains all of the needed files. Once the installer formats the system's disk, all data stored on that disk will be lost.
Decide Where to Install FreeBSD
If FreeBSD will be the only operating system installed, this step can be skipped. But if FreeBSD will share the disk with another operating system, decide which disk or partition will be used for FreeBSD.
In the i386 and amd64 architectures, disks can be divided into multiple partitions using one of two partitioning schemes. A traditional <firstterm>Master Boot Record</firstterm> (<acronym>MBR</acronym>) holds a partition table defining up to four <firstterm>primary partitions</firstterm>. For historical reasons, FreeBSD calls these primary partition <firstterm>slices</firstterm>. One of these primary partitions can be made into an <firstterm>extended partition</firstterm> containing multiple <firstterm>logical partitions</firstterm>. The <firstterm>GUID Partition Table</firstterm> (<acronym>GPT</acronym>) is a newer and simpler method of partitioning a disk. Common <acronym>GPT</acronym> implementations allow up to 128 partitions per disk, eliminating the need for logical partitions.
The FreeBSD boot loader requires either a primary or <acronym>GPT</acronym> partition. If all of the primary or <acronym>GPT</acronym> partitions are already in use, one must be freed for FreeBSD. To create a partition without deleting existing data, use a partition resizing tool to shrink an existing partition and create a new partition using the freed space.
A variety of free and commercial partition resizing tools are listed at <link xlink:href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disk_partitioning_software">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disk_partitioning_software</link>. <application>GParted Live</application> (<link xlink:href="http://gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php">http://gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php</link>) is a free live <acronym>CD</acronym> which includes the <application>GParted</application> partition editor. <application>GParted</application> is also included with many other Linux live <acronym>CD</acronym> distributions.
When used properly, disk shrinking utilities can safely create space for creating a new partition. Since the possibility of selecting the wrong partition exists, always backup any important data and verify the integrity of the backup before modifying disk partitions.
Disk partitions containing different operating systems make it possible to install multiple operating systems on one computer. An alternative is to use virtualization (<xref linkend="virtualization"/>) which allows multiple operating systems to run at the same time without modifying any disk partitions.

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